Emilia Grace — today you turn 12. While in many ways it feels like you’ve been with me forever, I remember many of the details of your birth and the hours leading up to it like it happened yesterday. My water breaking in the Winn Dixie checkout line. Freaking out because you were three weeks early. Throwing up in my friend Julie’s sweatshirt as she rushed me to the hospital. Prank calling my work colleagues after I’d been drugged up. Pushing, like… forever. Seeing your face for the first time and hearing the doctor tell me that you were perfectly healthy. Holding you, kissing your forehead, feeling both exhilarated and exhausted at once.
After your first round of well-wishers came to see you that day and congratulate me, the hospital room door shut on the final visitor and we were there together, alone for the first time. I felt a rush of panic as I looked at you, swaddled and asleep in the plastic bin bassinet next to my bed. The nurses were just the push of a button away but I knew that would only be the case for another day or two.
It struck me as overwhelming that people could trust me, alone, to take care of an entire life. What if I messed up? What if I woke up one morning and forgot how to change your diapers? What if I slept through your crying when you needed me? What if I wasn’t good enough?
At that moment, you sighed in your sleep. A deep, full sigh that moved through your entire body. I found myself drawing in my own deep breath and sighing out, following your lead. I watched you sleep for a few more moments and then decided I’d follow that lead too. When you woke up, you let out a few quiet whimpers and so I pulled you into me, close to my chest to feed you. Suddenly the panic from earlier seemed unfounded. You seemed pretty sure that I was good enough, in that moment. I would figure out the future moments of your life in order, as they came, and follow your lead.
Twelve years later I’m still looking to you for my cues. I watch you to learn what you need — as a student, performer, humanitarian and young woman.
You take so much responsibility for your own life, studies and extracurricular activities that I don’t feel that I “do” much for you most of the time but on the rare occasion you ask for my help, I try to carve out that time you need. I’m learning that in these late preteen years, offering my ear and undivided attention are often the things you need the most in a day.
You have a way of doing things with perceived ease, and offering that ease of attitude to those around you. Nothing seems impossible when you are there too.
At the age of 12, you seem to have mastered details about confidence and self-worth that took me decades longer to realize. I know moments of insecurity and angst are part of the coming 6+ years but at your core you are already self-assured, confident and perfectly okay with some people not liking you or agreeing with you.
You’re a defender of the defenseless and outspoken when you see something that is wrong — but you express these things in such a calm, non-confrontational way that it allows room for the feelings and perceptions of others. You are a safe space for your friends, siblings and parents.
Most days (especially as we are staying close to home during COVID-19) you can be found going about your at-home business — schoolwork, watching anime, singing songs from musicals like Hamilton, Beetlejuice and Dear Evan Hansen – with a smile. I used to teach you my favorite songs from the musicals I love and now you’re teaching me. We went to see the Hamilton national tour together earlier this year and it was one of the happiest days of my entire life.
Your younger sisters adore you and you’re able to turn on a level of silliness that sends sheets of laughter echoing through the house. Occasionally you walk into a room in a costume or wig or with crazy hair with no explanation whatsoever. I walk by your room and see you writing in one of your many journals and ask you “Whatcha writing?” and it’s always an elaborate chapter to one of your many ongoing stories.
As I look back at your life so far I am nostalgic for the smiley baby who I would take walks with every morning and the happy Kindergartner who always drew an extra picture for me when she had time in class. But those emotions pale in comparison to the ones that flood me when I think about future you — the woman you are becoming. I can’t wait to keep meeting her, day by day, moment by moment.
Happy birthday Emilia. Thank you for making me a mom.Category: Birthdays